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In their academic garb, from left, Pro Vice Chancellor Dorothy Hoddinott, Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson, Helen Clark and Vice Chancellor Michael Spenc
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Former NZ PM Helen Clark receives honorary doctorate

8 December 2017
First elected woman PM of NZ receives Doctor of Laws (honoris causia)

The University of Sydney has awarded an honorary doctorate to the Right Honourable Helen Clark ONZ, the first elected female Prime Minister of New Zealand and the first woman to head the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

In Helen Clark’s maiden speech to the New Zealand Parliament in 1982, she set out her support for nuclear disarmament. She was an advocate for New Zealand’s independent foreign policy throughout her political career. Staunch proponents of international law, Helen Clark and her government did not support the military intervention in Iraq in 2003 because it lacked United Nations Security Council approval.  Under her Prime Ministership from 1999 until 2008, New Zealand became the first developed country to sign a free trade agreement with China and signed the initial Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement with Singapore, Chile, and Brunei. 

The University of Sydney will tomorrow award an honorary doctorate to the Right Honourable Helen Clark ONZ, the first elected female Prime Minister of New Zealand and the first woman to head the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

“Helen Clark has been an inspiration for women on both sides of the Tasman, and around the world, for decades,” said Chancellor of the University Belinda Hutchinson AM. “She has forged a path for other women to pursue successful political careers, and continues to give voice to those whose needs often don’t receive the attention they are due.”

Helen Clark has spent her long and impressive career promoting social justice, diversity, inclusiveness and sustainability. She was first elected to Parliament in 1981 and became a Cabinet Minister in 1987, when, as Housing Minister, she stood up to opposition within her party and retained New Zealand’s state housing stock.

Helen Clark has been an inspiration for women on both sides of the Tasman, and around the world, for decades.
Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson AM

As Prime Minister she undertook numerous measures to create greater social equity in New Zealand including reducing the burden of debt on students, increasing the minimum wage, and introducing paid parental leave.

At the United Nations, Helen Clark was very engaged with the design of the Sustainable Development Goals aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. On her watch, UNDP was judged to be the world’s most transparent aid organisation.

A long-time advocate of diversity, Helen Clark’s first ministry formed in 1999 included eleven women, four Maori and New Zealand’s first Pacific Island minister.   

Helen Clark’s honorary doctorate was conferred at the University's Great Hall today.

“As fellow Antipodeans, New Zealanders share much with Australia,” Helen Clark said. “It’s an honour for me to receive this honorary degree from the University of Sydney.”

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